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Understanding Fellowships and Scholarships

The terms "fellowship" and "scholarship" have had a variety of meanings over time, but these days they are most typically used interchangeably. In most instances, we use the term "fellowship" at the University of Richmond to represent all of these opportunities simply because it is easier to choose and use one term than to communicate understandably using both. 

Most commonly, fellowships provide financial support for post-graduate study in the United States and abroad. Some fellowships also provide support for undergraduate study, and there are some that help support those with financial need who wish to study abroad.

Some fellowships are very specific about the areas of study they support while others are more open. Most are highly competitive, with maybe a few students chosen from thousands of applicants. Some require that applicants be nominated or endorsed by their institution, meaning applicants will only be considered if they have letters of nomination/endorsement from University officials like the Dean of Arts & Sciences or the Provost.

Most fellowship applications require considerable time and effort — a successful application can't be completed in several weeks, but rather they require months or even more than a year to create.

The most effective preparation for fellowship applications begins early in a student's academic career. First- or second-year students who think they might consider graduate study and who might want to win the support of a fellowship would be well advised to contact the Coordinator of National Fellowships during their first two years. Choosing courses, co-curricular experiences, and research opportunities with a specific fellowship in mind can be helpful in preparing a successful application.

Who should consider applying for fellowships?

Students planning on graduate or professional school (medical school, law school) across disciplines and areas of interest. Understand, however, that most fellowships are highly competitive so only those students with the most impressive records of achievement are considered.

What are award committees looking for?

The most frequent criteria for national fellowships is an impressive record of academic excellence. Many have specific GPA requirements and other academic expectations. However, academic excellence alone is often not enough. Many fellowships also weigh criteria such as excellence in leadership, extra-curricular involvement, research, international study, and/or commitment to public service.

What are my chances of winning a fellowship?

The likelihood of winning a fellowship varies greatly depending on the fellowship. Virtually all are highly competitive, so only the most impressive are likely to be selected. It is essential to study the criteria of any fellowship that interests you and be certain you are meeting each specific criterion listed. You can also enhance your chances of winning by taking extended time and care in preparing your application.

If I'm not a U.S. citizen, can I still apply for fellowships?

Most fellowships listed on this website are available to U.S. citizens only, though some are more broadly available. If you are an international student, see the criteria for the fellowships that interest you to determine if you are eligible.

What is the difference between an internal and an external/official deadline?

Official/external deadlines are the final deadlines established by each particular fellowship. Internal deadlines have been established by the Coordinator of National Fellowships and the National Fellowships Advisory Committee at the University of Richmond.

These deadlines typically apply to fellowships requiring university nomination or endorsement and are in place to help applicants create more impressive applications. These fellowships often ask for letters from university officials, numerous reference letters (which must be written according to specific guidelines), essays, and interviews. The internal deadlines are in place to provide ample time for all involved in the application process and to allow for mock interviews.

How do I know which awards require an institutional nomination or endorsement?

Each fellowship's website will tell you for certain if it requires an institutional nomination or endorsement.

Examples of fellowships that DO requirement nomination or endorsement include:

Beinecke Scholarship
Carnegie Endowment Junior Fellowship
Fulbright Scholarship
Gates-Cambridge Scholarship
Goldwater Scholarship
Luce Scholarship
Marshall Scholarship
Mitchell Scholarship
Rhodes Scholarship
Truman Scholarship
Udall Undergraduate Scholarship

Can I apply for a fellowship after my graduation from Richmond?

Many of the awards do allow applications after an undergraduate graduates. Some have specific age or year-of-graduation limits (e.g., for the Marshall, an applicant must have earned his/her first bachelor’s degree within the last three years) or other relevant criteria, while others are open only to applications during a particular year of undergraduate study (e.g., students are to apply for the Beinecke during their junior year of college).

See the websites for the fellowships that interest you to determine if they allow post-graduate applications.

What if I have other questions?

Dr. Jennifer Cable, Faculty Director for Scholars and Fellowships, is available to answer questions from students, faculty, or staff.

Other Questions?

If your question is not addressed here, contact Dana Kuchem for assistance.